Sport Rugby

Monday 19 February 2018

Joe Schmidt admits one scalp out of two will be enough

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

JOE SCHMIDT says that Ireland don't need to beat South Africa and Australia to prove they are on the right track as long as his side's performance levels are high, but the head coach admitted taking a scalp in November would prove a timely boost with the World Cup looming.

And the New Zealander hit out at suggestions he has been influencing provincial head coaches' decisions when it comes to team selection.

"If you offered me one (win) I'd grab it," he said of November. "Without a doubt, we'd love a result.

"It does add confidence. In a funny way we did get confidence out of the performance against New Zealand (last season), we didn't get the scalp but getting as close as we did... I'd love to get one of those two results. I think it would be fantastic for us as a rugby nation."

"If we get one or t'other, if we don't get the first one I've just put myself under the hammer - I know but what you want and what you get are not necessarily the same thing.

"What I am saying is that we don't need to get those to keep growing our confidence, but it would certainly help."

The Ireland coach has strongly denied having an overt influence on team selection at the four provinces as speculation over who will wear the No 13 shirt heats up and Darren Cave misses out on the Ireland squad at the expense of Jared Payne, who has started there for Ulster this season.

Schmidt said his assistant coach Les Kiss had limited input on selection while acting director of rugby at the province.

"There has been a massive misnomer saying that I influence provincial selection," he said. "That is absolutely untrue: the guys that are selected in the centre, or to carry water, are nothing to do with my selections.

"They are from the provincial coaches, and that's the way it should be. They are looking to do the best for their province. If there is a discussion point and they determine that it's best for the province, they may play someone somewhere.

"Les wasn't selecting the team, as such, he was helping the coaches. He might have been devil's advocate at times, but he was helping them in their progression to be able to be self-sufficient, basically."

Schmidt has plenty of headaches over injuries to his squad and remains unsure as to whether Mike Ross and Rob Kearney will be available. The full-back has an ongoing back issue, while the tighthead had a groin problem and it remains to be seen whether they will be involved for Leinster against Castres on Sunday.

The province could welcome Dave Kearney, Shane Jennings and Dan Leavy back for next week's meeting with Edinburgh, while Sean O'Brien and Cian Healy have begun rehabilitation after their operations were successful.

Schmidt said he had not thought about extending his current contract beyond 2016, saying the RFU's decision to extend England head coach Stuart Lancaster's deal to 2020 "took me by surprise".

Lancaster yesterday omitted Danny Cipriani, Christian Wade and Chris Ashton from his squad for the November internationals, with new caps Semesa Rokoduguni, George Kruis and Calum Clark included for New Zealand, South Africa, Samoa and Australia.

Meanwhile, Ireland internationals Jenny Murphy, Alison Miller and Ashleigh Baxter are among 19 players to sign up for the newly created Women's Sevens Programme announced yesterday.

Ireland Women's Sevens centralised contracted players: S Barrett, A Baxter, N Cronin, N Caughey, A Doyle, K Fitzhenry, L Jacob, C Keohane, M McCarthy, A Miller, J Murphy, L Mulhall, AL Murphy Crowe, E Ryan, H Tyrrell, L Walsh, S Vaughan, M Williams, A Hughes.

Irish Independent

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